Gov. Rick Scott and state Senate President Mike Haridopolos have short memories. They have forgotten about last year's BP oil spill. They have forgotten about the millions of gallons of oil that spewed into the gulf, the dead wildlife and the soiled Panhandle beaches. They have forgotten about the financial strain it placed on residents and businesses hundreds of miles from any oil. Floridians need to remind the governor and the Senate president of the devastating impact of the nation's greatest environmental disaster as the two foolishly open the door again to offshore drilling.
Haridopolos, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, recently spoke about his quest for a comprehensive energy policy on a conference call hosted by the Florida chapter of the Consumer Energy Alliance. The alliance is a prodrilling group that features oil companies, major business groups — and deep pockets for political contributions. In the call, Haridopolos said he wants to explore all options, and he has asked for a report from the alliance by the end of the year. Don't expect an objective assessment from that outfit. Yet in an interview last week, Haridopolos said he is keeping his pledge not to pursue authorizing oil drilling in state waters during next year's legislative session. That should be a relief, except it sounds like someone trying not to upset either side on a clear-cut issue.
More disconcerting than Haridopolos' maneuvering is Scott's initial foray into energy policy. Scott reportedly said in a private meeting with energy interests last month that he wants to pursue renewable energy and get the Public Service Commission to cut energy efficiency standards for electric utilities. Cutting those efficiency standards would be the wrong direction, and even more misinformed is Scott's goal to lower electric bills for business.
To save money by conserving and to pursue more environmentally sound renewable energy requires upfront investment. Executives with Progress Energy and other utilities have long said the amount of renewable energy options they can pursue is directly tied to how much more ratepayers are willing to spend to develop them. Even more alarming were signals by the governor's policy director that Scott would be open to expanding oil drilling and embracing clean coal.
"What did the previous governor do?" asked Mary Anne Carter dismissively. "Kill six coal plants? We want them in the room."
Fortunately, Carter left the governor's staff last week and returned home to Tennessee. Any smart energy strategy that seeks to reduce carbon emissions and emphasize renewable energy will not include coal plants, which even the state's electric utilities are not seeking to build any more. It will not include offshore oil drilling; the BP oil disaster has demonstrated the damage that can do to Florida's environment and economy. And it most certainly will not result in immediately reducing electric rates for businesses.